Several years ago, I almost had a coronary the first time I saw the bounce rate for a site I was administering through Google Analytics. The metric sent me off on a research journey for clarification. Just what was this bounce rate, and how dare it imply that visitors were leaving my home page almost as soon as they landed on it? I quickly concluded that there are times to worry about your bounce rates and times you needn’t bother.
Simply put, a webpage’s bounce rate shows the percentage of visitors that visited only the one page, and then they left your site. Since a goal for your webpages is usually to draw visitors deeper into the site, a high bounce rate could be undesirable. The bounce rate for your website as a whole is interesting but of little use as an analytic to take action on. Your focus should be on the bounce rate for individual pages.
According to Google, the bounce rate would increase in the following scenarios:
- A user clicks on a link deep into your site sent by a friend, reads the information on the page, and closes the browser.
- A user comes to your home page, looks around for a minute or two, and immediately leaves.
- A user comes directly to a reference page on your site from a web search, leaves the page available in the browser while completing other tasks in other browser windows and the session times out.
A high bounce rate may indicate a problem with a website page and you should closely examine it for issues such as:
- Usability & navigation
- Website design & content
- Annoying the visitor with pop-ups, music, slow load time, etc.
- Your tracking code may not be present on all pages. Check out Google’s Verifying Your Setup page for more information.
- You may be attracting the wrong visitors with irrelevant or misleading keywords. Change your search ads or organic SEO keywords to better reflect page content, or provide relevant, quality content that matches the keyword.
As you make adjustments to your pages, run Google Analytics Content Experiments to evaluate the outcome.
If you’ve evaluated your page and can find nothing wrong, there may be a perfectly acceptable explanation for a higher bounce rate.
- The searcher may be clicking on your affiliate links and leaving the site. You can lower this number by having affiliate links open in a new window.
- They may be doing an image search.
- Blogs with the full post on the home page allow for reading without clicking through to a post.
- Single page websites with nowhere else to go.
- If your landing page is a form it may inflate the bounce rate.
- The visitor finds what she was looking for and promptly leaves, such as your company’s contact information.
- The visitor has bookmarked the webpage to access specific information on it, such as a tool or chart.
- One of your newsletter subscribers visits to read specific content. Since they’re probably familiar with your site they may have already read your other content.
- The visitor landed on your website within a frame like StumbleUpon, then broke the frame to continue the visit.
Be aware of your bounce rate for individual webpages and consider it when you’re evaluating your website. Make sure there is a plausible explanation for high bounce numbers or edit the page to better snag the Canadian visitor. If you’re doing everything you can and the rate remains high, don’t be overly concerned. Google has stated that it doesn’t consider the bounce rate when ranking your website, and you have enough other metrics that are more deserving of your efforts. If there are problems, however, it will also be reflected in your search results inadvertently so they absolutely should be addressed.
Have you successfully reduced your Google Analytics bounce rate? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below.
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